Skills gaps and skills shortages are a truly global phenomenon, as are initiatives to tackle them. The European Commission, for example, has dubbed 2023 “The European Year of Skills”, setting ambitious plans for the labour market and education sector. Various social targets for 2030 have been established to reskill and upskill workers, including having 78% of adults in employment, 60% of adults in training every year, and 80% of adults with basic digital skills.
In this article, we explore the state of skills shortages across countries; initiatives powering the European Year of Skills programme; how to define skills needs; and the top in-demand skills across Europe. We also recently hosted a webinar on "Unlocking New Possibilities in the Labour Market in the Year of Skills” to guide you through how you can use Lightcast skills data to understand skills needs in your focus labour market, whether you’re a government body, employer, education provider or economic regeneration organisation.
The Year of Skills: current trends across countries
Despite the Year of Skills being an EU initiative, skills gaps are a phenomenon across multiple countries, and the issues the European Commission is looking to address are applicable elsewhere.
For instance, in the UK Brexit made it even more challenging to retain immigrants, leading to an estimated shortfall of 330,000 workers - a shortage that continues to pose challenges to some employers.
In Australia, there is a desperate need to fill in skills gaps too. So much so that the Australian government is now offering apprentices A$5,000 to study sought-after skills by taking one of the occupations from the Australian Apprenticeships Priority List. 39 new occupations were recently added, making a total of 111 occupations where the bonus is applicable. Amongst them are Mechanical Engineering Technicians, Security Officers and Veterinary Nurses roles.
What does the European Year of Skills encompass?
The European Year of Skills is packed with initiatives to help all employers, from SMEs to large corporations, upskill and reskill their employees to match changing needs in the labour market. It also brings together universities and education partners to ensure they are teaching the right skills to their students, with a particular focus on boosting digital skills.
There is also a plethora of funding opportunities and technical support available, including the Digital Europe Programme, which allocates €580 million to improving advanced digital skills, and the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), with a budget of over €99 billion for employment and skills reforms.
How can you define skills needs?
Firstly, you need accurate and current skills data. Through our analysis of job postings collected from more than 51,000 job boards, company websites, and other sources every day, we’ve been able to develop a Skills Library of over 32,000 skills that are regularly updated. These are not only split into common, specialised, and software skills, but we’ve also grouped them into 32 themes and 400 Skills Categories, to help simplify the complex relationship between skills.
This also enables us to understand skills trends across labour markets - whether locally, country-wide, or globally - so offering a vast array of insights to answer some of the key labour market questions of our day. For instance, what is the most in-demand specialised skill in Italy? Or perhaps the top 10 emerging skills in Spain? Who is hiring for them and where are these companies located?
You can also check our Lightcast European Insights dashboard to find the top skills required for a specific role. Now, let’s get to the data, shall we?
Top in-demand skills across 10 Western European Countries
We studied 10 countries in Western Europe: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, using our data to identify the top in-demand common and specialised skills in 2022 (Common or soft skills are personal attributes related to how people work. Specialised skills, on the other hand, refer to specific knowledge of a particular subject or tool).
Much in line with the growth of job postings for executive positions, Management takes the lead as the most in-demand common skill across Europe. Communication and Sales take the second and third spot, respectively, as the most sought-after skills by employers across sectors. Some other popular common skills include Customer Service, Microsoft Office and Excel, and languages such as English and German. Check out the short excerpt from our recent webinar for a more in-depth look:
The percentage of job postings that require specialised skills is much lower than those requiring common skills. While this may seem odd, it is due to the fact that specialised skills, much like the name says, are particular to certain job roles. It would be fairly strange to see a Marketing Manager position requiring warehousing skills, for instance.
Accounting was the most popular skill, present in 3.3% of all job postings in the countries studied. Project Management and Restaurant Operations took the second and third spot, followed by skills such as Auditing, Computer Science and Agile Methodology. A lot of the specialised skills in the top 10 are related to finance and technology, so we can quite easily see that these are key industries in Europe.
This sort of data is clearly highly valuable in helping us understand skills trends, and ultimately in developing solutions to skills shortages. And although the data we’ve presented here is just for a selection of Western European countries, we can do the same for other countries, and within countries. Just because Accounting is the most in-demand specialised skill across these European countries, it doesn’t mean it is the most in-demand skill in Italy or Milan, for example. In our next “Year of Skills” piece, we’ll be looking at this in more detail, showing how the data can vary considerably when comparing particular countries, regions, or cities.
If you are looking for country or region-specific skills data, we've got it.